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This series of gamebooks, published by Signet in the mid-eighties, is probably most easily compared to the fantasy Endless Quest books -- it uses no game system, but concentrates entirely on the decision-making. It stands out for two main reasons: first of all, the books are quite thick for the genre, being around 200 pages each and featuring lengthy text sections between choices. Secondly, the series is aimed at both genders, with the odd-numbered titles having white covers and female protagonists, and the even-numbered titles having black covers and male protagonists -- an interesting idea. The series only lasted a couple of years, but it managed to include more than a dozen volumes, a fairly impressive contribution considering that all of the books were written by the same author.

Reviews and details will be added for these books as I get the chance to read them.

 1. Sword Daughter's Quest
Author: Rhondi Vilott Salsitz (credited on cover as Rhondi Vilott)
Illustrators: Tom Hallman (cover), Michael Gilbert (interior)
First Published: July, 1984
ISBN: 0-451-13082-0
Length: 205 pages (introductory section plus 58 "Pathways")
Number of Endings: 22
Plot Summary: The daughter of a general, you are currently on a trip through the Wastes, building your fighting skills so that you can compete in the Warrior Games. Alas, things go downhill for you quickly....
My Thoughts: This book definitely gets the series off to a strong start. It drops the reader quickly into a comfortably familiar fantasy world that seems to be influenced about equally by Tolkien's Middle-earth (there's no doubt that The Hobbit was a major inspiration) and the basic Dungeons & Dragons world (familiar character classes are present). Talk of orcs and elves might confuse a reader completely unfamiliar with the staples of high fantasy, but the lack of excessive explanation of such things is a great relief to veteran fantasy readers. This intentional vagueness also makes it possible for the reader to mentally mould the adventure to fit into the fantasy world of his or her choice. Really, just about everything in the adventure seems fairly generic, from the setting and monsters to the heroes and villains. This didn't bother me, though, since all these generic elements are handled with a certain degree of skill. -- some of the creature encounters were inspired even if the actual creatures were familar (there's a bit with a giant water spider that I particularly enjoyed, for example), and the characters are fairly well-defined, even though the length of the book doesn't really allow them to be developed into anything particularly memorable. My only real complaint about the book involves its romantic elements -- although the story's romance is not entirely unreasonable in concept, the writing style periodically lapses into gaudy prose that undermines the message somewhat and dispels any hope of subtlety. I might have found the romance more believable and moving if there had been less discussion of trembling hands and deep violet eyes. Still, this problem is only gets really annoying on certain paths through an otherwise enjoyable book. Since this is a pretty quick read despite the length of its sections, it's not too hard to overlook its flaws.

 2. Runesword!
Author: Rhondi Vilott Salsitz (credited on cover as Rhondi Vilott)
Illustrators: Tom Hallman (cover), Michael Gilbert (interior)
First Published: July, 1984
ISBN: 0-451-13083-9
Length: 203 pages (introductory section plus 55 "Pathways")
Number of Endings: 21
Plot Summary: You are a young shepherd, and your boring life is enlivened a bit when your grazing trip leads you to a crystal-filled tunnel leading deep into the realm of the dwarf king.
My Thoughts: This book is both better and worse than its predecessor. Its use of romance is much more restrained and subtle than the last book's, but at the same time it's also less believable because the reader's potential romantic interest is (to me at least) a really irritating character. As in the last book, the fantasy elements on display are fairly generic in nature (except perhaps for some unusual dragon flies and the unfortunately-named Mud Goons). As before, though, this doesn't prevent the adventure from being satisfying -- although I wasn't surprised by anything that happened, I still managed to enjoy the trip. I have only a few other minor complaints. First of all, some of the writing is a bit awkward; there are some word and punctuation choices that bothered me a bit. Secondly, the pacing and continuity aren't always right -- at one point, I ran into the dwarf king and couldn't help feeling that I'd missed something, even though I really hadn't. At another point, I was asked if I wanted to use one of the old man's gifts when I hadn't actually run into the old man on that adventure. I also wasn't too pleased by the inclusion of a space-wasting "give up and don't have an adventure" choice. Finally, the challenge level is fairly low; I reached an optimal ending on the first try without feeling too stressed out by any of the choices along the way. It turns out that this is because there are a lot of successful paths through the book. Since I always find it harder to motivate myself to replay a gamebook after a successful ending than after a failure, I would probably have missed out on a lot of the interesting events of the book if I had not been motivated to read it thoroughly for reviewing purposes. Ultimately, this book won't challenge your decision-making skills too much, nor will it change the way you think about fantasy... but it's not a bad way to kill an hour or two, or even more if your motivation to replay is stronger than mine.

 3. Challenge of the Pegasus Grail
Author: Rhondi Vilott Salsitz (credited on cover as Rhondi Vilott)
Illustrators: Tom Hallman (cover), Freya Tanz (interior)
First Published: August, 1984
ISBN: 0-451-13084-7
Length: 189 pages (introductory section plus 63 "Pathways")
Number of Endings: 29
Plot Summary: While hiding in the palace in an effort to acquire some of the prince's hair for a love charm, you overhear dire news from the king and determine to do what you can to save the kingdom from the evil Blackthorn.
My Thoughts: In many ways, I found this to be the best book so far in the series. As before, the setting is familiar enough to make it easy for any reader accustomed to fantasy tales to understand what's going on, and, as an added bonus, the writing is decent and the choices feel meaningful. What made the book stand out for me most, though, was its effective characterization -- I found the characters more likeable and believable than those in past adventures, and the romantic element of the story actually makes sense here. Unlike the "romance by default" found in all too many romantic stories, the relationship here is actually based on the characters' history together. It's amazing what a difference a believable context makes. My only major complaint is that the book is rather short. While some paths are longer than others, most are shorter than one would like them to be, and all too many end without resolving the whole story. I would probably have enjoyed myself more if there were fewer (but longer) pathways. A sequel wouldn't have hurt either, though considering the many possible endings here, there would be no easy way to follow this story up, which I suppose demonstrates an inherent problem (though not necessarily a flaw) in gamebooks that don't have a single, predetermined happy conclusion.
Errata: On page 114, a choice says to turn to Pathway 35 on page 107, but Pathway 35 actually begins on page 105.

 4. The Towers of Rexor
Author: Rhondi Vilott Salsitz (credited on cover as Rhondi Vilott)
Illustrators: Tom Hallman (cover), Freya Tanz (interior)
First Published: August, 1984
ISBN: 0-451-13085-5
Length: 189 pages (introductory section plus 55 "Pathways")
Number of Endings: 25
Plot Summary: You are a young bard about to meet the king of the court in which you have been sent to work. Alas, all is not well in the kingdom, and you will soon need to use your skills for more than entertainment....
Translation: French
My Thoughts: This book is a bit better-paced than the last one; most of its paths are satisfyingly long, and there's a lot of exploration to do along the way, making for decent replay value. Unfortunately, in other respects, it's not as strong. Things start out promisingly enough, with the reader being given decent motivation for going on a quest and with the story's villain sounding like a complex and potentially interesting character rather than yet another boring megalomaniac. Unfortunately, though, the book doesn't really use its promise to its fullest. On many paths, the reader never discovers exactly what is going on, and even when explanations are given, they tend to dramatically contradict one another. This inconsistency actually made me like the book less and less with each reading -- I started over a few times so that I could find out more about what seemed like a complex story, but each reading further suggested that there actually wasn't anything like a coherent plot hiding in the book. Some of the individual paths are quite interesting, but their lack of unity undermines the book as a whole. In the end, I was mostly frustrated, which is a shame, since some of these pieces could have been put together into a much more effective whole.

 5. The Unicorn Crown
Author: Rhondi Vilott Salsitz (credited on cover as Rhondi Vilott)
Illustrators: Tom Hallman (cover), Freya Tanz (interior)
First Published: October, 1984
ISBN: 0-451-13202-5
Length: 189 pages (introductory section plus 49 "Pathways")
Number of Endings: 22
Plot Summary: Although your current occupation involves washing dishes, you are an ambitious weaver and hope to someday be rich. For the moment, though, you'll be happy to catch a glimpse of the unicorn that is predicted to determine a new ruler for your currently kingless land....
My Thoughts: I found this book rather more entertaining than the previous one. Although its paths are fairly diverse in length and nature, the ones I traveled down were not overly contradictory of one another. It's by no means the best of the series, though. The characterization is a little thin, with the potential romantic interests not seeming overly alluring and the player character displaying at least one emotional outburst that is more startling to the player than it is effective to the story. The adventure itself works adequately, especially along its lengthier pathways, but its effectiveness is undermined by the fact that the big dangers that threaten the reader are too easily defeated. The book doesn't conjure up the feeling of overcoming great obstacles that can be found in more challenging quests, and its characters don't do enough to fill the void left by the missing threats. The presence of enough typos and errors to suggest a certain degree of editorial indifference are a final black mark on the book. This is by no means an awful book, but it's not much more than average.
Errata: The second choice in the introduction should lead to page 162, not page 63. The choices on page 118 list page numbers in place of pathway numbers.

6. Black Dragon's Curse

7. Spellbound

8. The Dungeons of Dregnor

9. Aphrodite's Mirror

10. Hall of the Gargoyle King

11. Maiden of Greenwold

12. Storm Rider

13. Pledge of Peril

14. Secret of the Sphinx

French Translations

Several of the books were translated into French and released as the "Sortilèges" series. The French editions replace all of the artwork from the American originals; the interior illustrations are something of an improvement, but I can't say that the new covers impress me very much....

1. ???
This book is not part of my collection.

 2. Les Tours de Rexor
Translation Of: The Towers of Rexor
Literal Translation of French Title: The Towers of Rexor
Translator: Michel Pagel
Illustrator: Jean-Louis Henriot
First Published: 1987
ISBN: 2-253-04239-0
Length: 55 sections plus introduction

3. Le Miroir d'Aphrodite

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